The Monarch As A Super-Star (The Prototype Of Today’s Multi-millionaires and Multi-billionaires) Creating Cult Of Wealth

In 1962 Rossellini called a press conference in a bookshop in Rome and announced that cinema was dead. “There’s a crisis not just in film but culture as a whole,” he explained. Increasingly, Rossellini had understood the great task of film as education.
Colin Maccabe, “Long Live the Cinema”

During the reign of Louis XIV France began the slow but steady movement from a wealthy nation to a debtor nation.
Historical annals

Meticulously shaped hedges of the Gardens of Versailles…
Historical annals

The story begins in March 1661, with the death of Cardinal Mazarin, who had run France as chief minister for nearly twenty years, We then watch the twenty-two-year-old King Louis XIV confound both his mother, Anne of Austria, and his court, particularly the powerful minister Fouquet, by carrying through his determination to rule by himself… The assumption by the sovereign of absolute power has, as its condition, the creation of iconic figure of the Sun King, who is the source of all authority: economic, social and cultural.
Colin Macabe, Ibid

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We see here the young Louis with his mother – a ruthless fighter for political influence. She could sacrifice the future of her son to her own monarchic ambitions if he didn’t rush to take drastic measures to isolate her from the governmental circles.

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Illness of Cardinal Mazarin forces Louis to leave lazy happiness of a “chamber monarch” and to enter political fight.

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Rossellini pays methodical attention to the rituals of monarchy. “We witness an extraordinary moment of ‘levee,’ as the whole court gathers round the king’s four-poster bed before he wakes. As draws back the curtain, the queen claps her hands… it signifies that the king has performed his conjugal duties the night before.” Colin Maccabe, Ibid

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In the absence of modern medical technology the doctor examines the condition of the ailing Cardinal Mazarin by sniffing his sweat.

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The bedridden Cardinal is being prepared for a final meeting with the King which will be a tour de force of a mutual maneuverings and virtuoso gambits.

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Colbert, the right hand of the King, instructs the legendary D’Artagnan to arrest in advance (preventively) the most dangerous “enemy” of the King. Rossellini justifiably debunks a person of super-historical fame as just a typical conformist stooge serving power.

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Louis successfully wins over people impressing them with pomposity of his clothes as a new trend of aristocratic behavior signifying a personal glamour.

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Louis is successfully impresses the people with his easy, familiar, without any condescending manner of treating people – harbinger of a future “democratic” manner of super-rich and super-strong of our own times.

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Louis introduces a new ritual – of dining alone in front of the whole court as his audience silently observing the King eating without using cutlery.

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King Louis advertises himself in front of population as an eccentric figure of godly frivolity, as the Sun among mortals – this new ruling strategy has became a legacy of the Sun-King inspiring today’s rulers to stimulate idolatry of money and glamour among even the poorest segments of the population.

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Louis XIV was not inventor or promoter of money-power as different from direct power (of a despotic command) – he was master of both. But, according to Rossellini’s film, he was a strategist of using money as glamour, as an almost aesthetic principle to be popular and to rule successfully. With him money became luxury of living as a tool to enhance his power, it became a glamorous life style, a waste as accumulation (as inviting/provoking/promoting accumulation). Louis XIV’s clothes sumptuous and decorative to an absurd degree or his gastronomical luxuries are examples of how to rule by stimulating awe before wealth incarnated into consumption and its pompous rituals. Louis managed to transform fashion and eating into theatrics with almost esoteric meanings. With him the monarch became an effective actor in today’s instrumental sense and a master-creator of rhetorical speech.

For Rossellini Louis XIV was the first ruler in the 20th – 21st century sense. He was ruling manipulatively – through modification of people’s social and socio-political behavior and creation of socio-aesthetic trends. He wasn’t just a conservative ruler fighting to preserve and strengthen his grip on power, but a conservative with innovative repressive ideas. And this makes him a modern and a post-modern ruler.

The reason he was so successful in outmaneuvering his enemies was that they just fought for themselves and against him, but Louis mainly fought them indirectly, by manipulating large populations through changing people’s tastes and the very perception of their monarch as deserving admiration and of his enemies as the enemies of the people. Louis XIV introduced propaganda of wealth as verification of person’s exclusivity. By making the institution of monarchy more glamorous and admirable he stimulated people’s pride for their king and for being part of the French kingdom.

According to the logic of the film’s images, today in the West the whole political system is, as if, impregnated with Louis XIV’s influence – it manipulates people by corrupting them with cultural gimmicks (for example, creation in the second half of the twentieth century of widespread mass culture of consumption of things, services and pop-images as a goal of human life, hooking people on gadget-toys, video-games and in US high-tech guns – all of this are completely artificial, compulsive-obsessive needs). Of course, in 21st century less and less people can reach the ideal of luxurious consumerism but they maniacally dream about it, as if it can be available to them by the magic of “democracy”. In times of Louis XIV (more than three centuries ago) the majority of the French were very poor, and their factual misery made them even more fixated on the glory of their Sun-King and be ready to sacrifice themselves in his wars promoting the unconditional glory of France in the world. Today, the pharmaceutical, entertainment, cosmetics, fashion and advertisement industries, not to mention the military-industrial complex have turned people into its servants instead of serving them.

Rossellini depicts in detail how the “creative force” of the young king established the image of the French monarch not already as the first among the French aristocrats, but as being the best dresser, the most eccentric eater and creator of the most glamorous castle in the French history, embellished with impeccable gardens – the pride of whole Europe. Now, in the 21st century, Louis’ desire to astonish, shock and fascinate finds its global scope. The glory of the wealthy monarchs became reinforced today as the glory of “democracy” grown on unseen technological innovations and strategies of intense profit-making. Personal glamour that made Louise XIV the object of mass identification, now, for today’s financial-political decision-makers is refashioned from personal image to the image of their financial assets and glorious ruthlessness of their political projects through their global financial and military might.

Louis was very resourceful in maneuvering between the aristocracy and bourgeoisie – inviting the aristocrats to waste their money – to give him the chance to bail them out in order to make them dependent on himself as a buffer against a bourgeoisie which was becoming more and more impatient and greedy. It took historical time for the French monarchy to lose to the people whose banner was carrying logo of money. In US it approximately took the same period to become completely straddled by the financial monopolists. Today, the profit-makers – not the aristocracy, became to be the real cultural heirs of the sunny monarch. The cultural trends sometimes cut through social groups and recruit those who in previous historical periods could be its opponents (as the bourgeoisie’s and aristocracy’s opposition to glamorization of king’s power during the reign of the young Louis XIV). Today’s profit-hoarders transform their power into a self-glamorization tool by stocking up wealth instead of investing it in economy.

Posted on July 7, 2014 –   “The Rise of Louis XIV” by Roberto Rossellini (1966) by Acting-Out Politics